Denver mailman mistakes corpse for Halloween decoration

Pick out the real homeowner!

The United States Postal Service acknowledged on Friday that one of its mail carriers did not report a corpse at a Denver home because he mistook the body for a Halloween display.

“We do know the carrier delivered mail to the house that day, and he remembered seeing something he thought was related to Halloween,” the postal service said in a statement. “When the carrier learned that was not the case, he was shocked and extremely upset.”

The local ABC News affiliate reported that the dead man, Dale Porch, 46, collapsed and died November 2 on his porch steps after returning home from his night shift job…

The postal service called the incident “an unfortunate situation” that probably would not have happened any other time of year.

Our carriers have a long history of assisting customers in neighborhoods across the country each and every day, and that holds true for our letter carriers here in Denver,” the statement said.

I’m not really clear on what sort of assistance the letter carrier could have offered the late Mr. Porch.

Don’t take a nap in a cornfield during harvest season

This is the kind of machinery we’re talking about

A man napping in a Montana cornfield was startled out of his snooze when he was run over by a large harvesting machine – and Yellowstone County deputies say he’s lucky to be alive.

Sheriff’s Lt. Kent O’Donnell says the 57-year-old man had been traveling the country by bus and decided to take a rest three rows deep in a field on the outskirts of Billings…

A farmer harvesting Wednesday felt his combine hit something. When he turned the machine off, he heard screaming.

Emergency responders found the man’s clothing had been sucked into the cutter, ensnaring him in the blades.

O’Donnell says the man, whose name was not released, suffered cuts requiring stitches and may need skin grafts, but given the circumstances is “incredibly lucky.”

I’m pleased enough to NOT be posting this as a Darwin Award candidate.

Emergency responders hand-cranked the combine’s auger backwards to release Mr. Sleepyhead.

Christian Conservatives couldn’t deliver enough angry white guys

Christian conservatives, for more than two decades a pivotal force in American politics, are grappling with Election Day results that repudiated their influence and suggested that the cultural tide — especially on gay issues — has shifted against them.

They are reeling not only from the loss of the presidency, but from what many of them see as a rejection of their agenda. They lost fights against same-sex marriage in all four states where it was on the ballot, and saw anti-abortion-rights Senate candidates defeated and two states vote to legalize marijuana for recreational use.

It is not as though they did not put up a fight; they went all out as never before: The Rev. Billy Graham dropped any pretense of nonpartisanship and all but endorsed Mitt Romney for president. Roman Catholic bishops denounced President Obama’s policies as a threat to life, religious liberty and the traditional nuclear family. Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition distributed more voter guides in churches and contacted more homes by mail and phone than ever before.

“Millions of American evangelicals are absolutely shocked by not just the presidential election, but by the entire avalanche of results that came in,” R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in Louisville, Ky., said in an interview. “It’s not that our message — we think abortion is wrong, we think same-sex marriage is wrong — didn’t get out. It did get out.

“It’s that the entire moral landscape has changed,” he said. “An increasingly secularized America understands our positions, and has rejected them…”

Compared to the rest of the industrial, educated world, that is long overdue.

Continue reading

Cigarette smoke boosts virulence in Staph infections

Exposure to cigarette smoke has long been associated with increased frequency of respiratory infections — which are harder to treat in smoke-exposed people than in those who lack such exposures. Now Ritwij Kulkarni of Columbia University, New York, NY, and colleagues show that cigarette smoke actually boosts virulence of Staphylococcus aureus bacteria.

S. aureus is a normally harmless inhabitant of the upper respiratory tract, but one which can morph into a dangerous pathogen capable of causing severe, and even fatal infections, says Kulkarni. The new research shows that cigarette smoke can aid and abet that transformation.

Cigarette smoke does so by enhancing S. aureus’ ability to form biofilms, which are an important virulence factor, according to the study. The research showed further that reactive oxygen species, such as H2O2, which are concentrated in cigarette smoke, drive biofilm formation, says Kulkarni.

Kulkarni notes that a recent paper, from another group, showed that reactive oxygen species suppress the gene regulator, “Accessory Gene Regulator,” or agr for short. “That fits nicely with our story,” he says. “We think control of biofilm formation [and of numerous other virulence factors in S. aureus] proceeds via agr.”

And as secondhand smoke, another factor in cigarette smokers causing illness in others.

Asian voters send a message to Republicans

So, when did you realize you need to be Christian to run for office?

The story of Mitt Romney’s loss among Hispanic voters is on the front pages of today’s New York Times and Washington Post. And it should be.

According to exit polls, President Barack Obama won the Hispanic vote by a whopping margin of 71 percent to 27 percent. That’s larger than Obama’s margin against McCain in 2008. Having doubled their share of the total vote since 1996, Hispanics constituted 10 percent of the electorate in 2012. In the next presidential race in 2016, more than three million additional Hispanic citizens will be eligible to vote.

You don’t have to be a statistician to see where this is going. Even Republicans see it, though they don’t know what to do about it. The quandary inevitably leads to discussion of comprehensive immigration reform. Hispanics are for it, Republicans are not. But the alienation of Hispanics, many of whom are culturally conservative, from the Republican Party is both bigger and smaller than the issue of immigration.

For a little perspective, consider the votes of another minority — Asians. Romney won among all voters making more than $100,000 a year by a margin of 54-44. Asian-Americans happen to be the highest-earning group in the U.S., out-earning whites, and they generally place enormous emphasis on family. A perfect fit for Republicans, no?

No. Asians voted for Obama by 73-26; they were more Democratic than Hispanics…

Perhaps the decisive characteristics are not in the Asian and Hispanic communities so much as in the Republican Party. The GOP is overwhelmingly white and insistently, at times militantly, Christian. Democrats, by contrast, are multiracial with a laissez faire attitude toward religion and spirituality. If you were a black-haired Buddhist from Taipei or a brown-skinned Hindu from Bangalore, which party would instinctively seem more comfortable?

Republican exceptions prove the rule. As Shikha Dalmia has pointed out, the two high-profile Indian-Americans in the Republican constellation — Governors Nikki Haley of South Carolina and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana — both converted from their traditional eastern faiths to Christianity. It’s unlikely that’s a coincidence.

There is also the problem that polite people avoid identifying: the persistence of a rump of racists in the Republican base and on conservative airwaves. Nothing the party advocates — from walls along the border with Mexico to the “papers please” laws of Arizona and Alabama — is designed to disabuse those conservatives of their racial views or of their belief that the party will tolerate them.

For many years the racial smoke signals worked in Republicans favor. Now Asians, blacks and Hispanics are sending the signals. Blacks vote Democratic 9-1; Asians 3-1; Hispanics almost 3-1. Support for immigration reform will help. But Democrats have a four-decade head start in building and managing multiracial coalitions. Republicans have a lot of catching up to do in a hurry.

I think it unlikely there will be a serious effort to do the catching up addressed in Wilkinson’s article. Lip service. Yes.

How could you expect action on racism, internal and ideological, when the only significant change in the Republican rank-and-file in decades has been the infusion from the Tea Party? Sure, the moneyboys, the Kochs and Rove whispered to leaders who floated to the top like crap in a cesspool to lose overt racists from the public eye. But, the crowd marching around proclaiming their self-identified importance in the Republican Party are still composed of fundamentalist white Christians. Twice in the past few months, here in New Mexico, folks have shuddered over their public activities while flying the Confederate flag.

Anyone expect this crowd to deal with xenophobia and racism? Wait! Let me get my rubber boots on.

UK’s £280 million in aid to India will be scrapped

The International Development Secretary will tell MPs that from today no new aid programmes and contracts will be agreed for financial assistance to India, which is rapidly emerging as one of the world’s most powerful economies.

Existing schemes that have already been agreed will continue until the last of them concludes in 2015, when all UK financial aid to the country will cease…

Officials said Miss Greening was told that the Indian government valued Britain’s “technical assistance” far more than money…

Miss Greening said: “After reviewing the programme and holding discussions with the Government of India this week, we agreed that now is the time to move to a relationship focussing on skills-sharing rather than aid.

“Having visited India I have seen first hand the tremendous progress being made. India is successfully developing and our own bilateral relationship has to keep up with 21st Century India.

The UK’s overall financial contribution to India since the Coalition took office is expected to total more than £1 billion.

After 2015, the contribution of Britain’s technical expertise to development programmes in India will cost an estimated one tenth of the current total aid budget to the country.

As existing grants are phased out, the government expects to save around £200 million over the next three years…

Any discussion – in the UK or India – on how the value of that increase in India’s wealth, power and commercial strength will trickle down to the ordinary people already overlooked by the aid programmes?

A parallel examination of India’s corruption shows no sign of diminishing any time soon.